Students Report on State Issues for Ohio News Connection

Students in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) have a new opportunity to report on statewide issues and get published in various Ohio news outlets, thanks to a Media in the Public Interest Grant.

Through the grant, a small cohort of JMC students will write 12 stories to be published through the Ohio News Connection between now and August 2018. Ohio News Connection is a news service reaching 127 radio stations, 44 print and online outlets and seven television stations throughout Ohio and border states.

“Initially the invite to join the grant came through our scholastic channels,” said Assistant Professor Susan Kirkman Zake. “Our professional and educational connections get us invited to things like this.”

Money from the grant was used to purchase new audio equipment for students to use as they report these stories. Every story written for Ohio News Connection is expected to include audio clips from interviews. The grant also allows students to be paid for their work and published professionally.  

“Public policy journalism is something I am very passionate about and already have some experience in,” journalism major Ben Orner, ’18, said. “It’s really nice to be able to do it professionally.”

Students in Reporting Public Policy, the capstone class for senior journalism majors, are already reporting about public policy in the city of Kent, Portage County and Ohio, for class and student media; however, they are not the only students eligible for the grant.

Recently, a student in Feature Writing, Scott Lendak, ’19, had a story published through Ohio News Connection about local high schoolers’ reactions to kneeling during the National Anthem before football games. While the story had local sources, it examined a national issue.

When selecting topics for each piece, the students have enough independence to be creative in their coverage.

“The grant does not limit students; however, it encourages coverage of certain areas of social justice and public policy, especially for underrepresented populations,” Zake said.

The first story published through the grant was written by journalism major Andrew Keiper, ‘18. His story, Stand Your Ground Stirs Controversy in Ohio, explained the new proposed protections in the Stand Your Ground Law. His story about gun control legislation published a few days after the Las Vegas shootings.

The story reached 260,000 people in every media market in Ohio, including Lima, Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo.

Later in the semester, Keiper reported on over-crowding at Ohio county jails due to the opioid epidemic and high-priced bail. The story was picked up nationally, by the Public News Service's Daily National News podcast. 

“Anytime our students can work for outside professional agencies, it’s a leg up for them when they look for internships and jobs,” Zake said.

The next story from JMC students will cover budget cuts to school district transportation funding.

“For JMC, it really shows that we care about quality journalism,” said Associate Professor Jacqueline Marino. “We aren’t just teaching our students, we are providing a vehicle for them to connect with professional news outlets.”

The Media in Public Interest (MPI) grant program is used to create media opportunities through partnerships, including the George Gund Foundation, Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, Horace Hagedorn Foundation and the Public News Service.

MPI’s goal is to improve the quality of public interest media through innovative projects, nonprofit support and a focus on underrepresented populations.

“We should always know what is going on in the world to keep our work relevant,” Marino said.

Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 12:04 AM
Arkayla Tenney-Howard, '19